TechLab Book Suggestions

In TechLab this week, students responded to a TechLab Blog Challenge; including a request to share a “must read” book.

What’s one book you’ve read that you think everyone should read? (it can be for any age level or from any time in your life)

Here’s our list:

It by Stephen King

Maus by Art Spiegelman

Holes by Louis Sachar

The Hunger Games trilogy written by Suzanne Collins

The Boy in the Striped Pajamas by John Boyne

Oh, The Places You’ll Go by Dr. Suess

The Slight Edge by Jeff Olson

Wuthering Heights by Emily Brontë


Jurassic Park by Michael Crichton

The Secret by Rhonda Byrne

The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein



Tech Lab Blog Challenge

This is a “reposting” from a blog challenge I participated in last year; now we have a new class of Tech Lab bloggers and a new challenge!

This challenge was originally lifted from a blog post by Matt Degner called “Be Great and Get Better!” Mr. Degner is the Principal of South East Junior High in Iowa City.

This week, I’m asking my EDU219 Tech Lab students to step up to this blog challenge. Lots of PLNs (Professional Learning Networks) take part in meme-based blog challenges. These offer a writing prompt and push us to follow/comment on each other’s blogs.

Here are our (amended) rules:

  • Acknowledge the nomination blogger (that would be me!)
  • Share 11 random facts about yourself
  • Answer the 11 questions your nomination blogger has created for you
  • List 11 bloggers (OK..for our purposes, since we’re new at this you can skip this part)
  • Optional: if the original challenge, each person finds 11 MORE bloggers to “nominate” to the challenge (and comes up with their own set of 11 questions). If you’d like to jump in and try this – AWESOME! No worries if you’re not there, yet. Or, if you’d just like to come up with your own set of 11 questions you’d ask others, go for it.

11 Random Facts About Me

  1. I’m originally from South Dakota, but have lived over half my life in other places. I’ve met more than a few people (even in the Midwest) that think there is one large area called “the Dakotas”
  2. I know the words to a lot of songs. I like to sing them out loud. I do not have a good singing voice. I have an iPad app called Yokee. It’s a love/hate relationship.
  3. The first time I was in an airplane was to shoot video of The Golden Knights Parachuting Team (Army). It was a big cargo plane, and I was strapped in next to the large (open) door, laying on the floor with my head and camera hanging outside.
  4. I love to ride my bicycle.
  5. I like to cook and bake with my kids, but I dislike cleaning up afterwards.
  6. I’d like to become a better photographer (and I’d like to win the lottery so I can buy better lenses for my camera).
  7. There were 18 people (including me) in my HS graduating class.
  8. My dad was the principal of my high school.
  9. I feel aimless or lost if I do not have a book to read (electronic or solid surface does not matter)
  10. After my daughter started competing on a swim team, and I sat through the first meet (2-3 minutes of exciting racing followed by an hour of waiting for the next event, times 4-5 hours total) I called my parents and thanked them for sitting through all of my junior high, high school and college track meets. For 8 years I competed in the FIRST and LAST event of every meet.
  11. My parents grew up on farms roughly 3 miles apart, but didn’t know each other until they got to High School.

Since I didn’t actually get nominated, I’ll answer the same 11 questions (as I interpret them based on answers) that Mr. Degner answered posed by @aaron_becker32:

  1. My favorite book to read as a kid was the Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder. My 4th grade teacher, Mrs. Barrows, read the entire series out loud after lunch every day, and I read them all myself at least 3-4 times, too.
  2. My two favorite athletes: Billy Mills and Wilma Rudolph (but I’m also a fan of several retired quarterbacks who seemed to have retired with class…).
  3. My favorite teacher was Mrs. Barrows, my 4th grade teacher. The lasting lesson I have from her is how important it is to recognize and acknowledge good things in each other. Close second: Mrs. Van Balen; HS English/Lit.
  4. The best party food I make: can’t narrow it down, but we have a big back yard and occasionally have bonfires. I love to experiment making gourmet s’mores.
  5. Favorite location: anywhere on my bike OR a beach.
  6. One place I’d like to visit: southern Spain.
  7. Historical figure I’d like to meet: Susan B Anthony or Amelia Earheart.
  8. If I had 4 extra hours in every day: I’d hang out with my family and read more.
  9. Favorite Quote: “When given the choice between being right or being kind, choose kind.” – Dr. Wayne W. Dyer
  10. Something in our field that I’m interested in learning: I want to explore and learn more about game-based learning theories.
  11. How would I change education/educational model? I’d quit thinking of students as the sum of their years. Why do we put all of the 9 year olds in a room together and assume this is the best way to group them in a learning environment?

Bloggers:  (I’m nominating EVERYONE in the class!)

My 11 Questions (so in addition to the 11 things about yourself, you’ll also answer these 11 questions)

  1. What’s one book you’ve read that you think everyone should read? (it can be for any age level or from any time in your life)
  2. What has been your best educational experience?
  3. What was your worst educational experience?
  4. If you were not pursuing a degree in education, what career field would you be heading toward?
  5. What is your favorite thing to do with a free hour? (assuming you had no homework or pending projects)
  6. Who was your favorite teacher?
  7. What’s your favorite quote?
  8. What’s something you’ve heard about (or read about) that you’d like to know more about?
  9. What’s one thing you’d like to change about our current educational system(s)?
  10. What is your stress reliever?
  11. If you were given a plane ticket to anywhere in the world, leaving next week, where would you go?

Tools We Use

In TechLab last week, I asked students to share one tool or application they relied on.  We had almost an equal division between “social” tools/apps and “utilitarian” tools. Social (or entertainment) tools included Netflix, Instagram, Snapchat, Tumbler and Spotify/Pandora. Our “working” tools included Google things (docs, drive, calendar, slides), Facebook Messenger as a group work tool (interesting!), image editing/storage, music editing software and a proprietary system used to communicated and track fraternity events.

One tool mentioned I hadn’t used and decided to further explore:

screen-shot-2017-01-31-at-1-17-44-pmMightyText: this intrigued me. It’s a way to send text messages from your computer. Why? I asked Laura. She said she likes to compose longer texts, but doesn’t like finger typing. From what I’ve learned, the service is only available if you have a mobile number tied to an Android-based phone. End of my exploration.

Other things (to complete my Stros 6 multiple: let’s count MightyText as no.1)

2. Radio Garden ( Tired of listening to your same-old local radio stations? Tune in to stations ALL OVER THE WORLD. I’m currently listening to 98.8 Castle FM, a student-run radio station broadcasting live from Edinburgh, UK. Student DJs are reading poetry (live and apparently unrehearsed).

3. SnapChat: is there a purpose besides time waste? I am late to the game and have figured out how to add dog ears to my image, but that’s about it.

4. Knovio: an easy way to create a quick video-based presentation. Turn on your camera and and mic, upload your slides or images and record. The free version is limited to 5 presentations, 7 minutes each (but you can download and delete, or simply delete when you no longer need the presentation. Or pull out the $ for an upgrade.

5. Google Classroom: I’m working on my TechLab classroom, but I can’t seem to make the leap out of Moodle and in to Classroom completely. I find many similarities to Edmodo, and I appreciate the ability to share resources.

6. The most interesting article I read in the past week: To Obama With Love, and Hate, and Desperation. A long-form piece published on the NY Times exploring what exactly happens to all of the letters citizens wrote to Obama over his terms. It is worth the time to read. Something I found interesting: every day, all emails and scanned letters were turned into a word cloud so staff and various administration could “see” pulse of what writers were communicating.


What is your personal philosophy?

For the past several semesters, I’ve been using a version of 26 Questions Every Student Should be Able to Answer, from TeachThought as an introduction to Tech Lab. I like the idea of asking the students to examine their own ideas of what it means to be a learner (and a human) and then to reflect on why asking ourselves and our future students these questions is important.

Mostly this exercise is for community discussion (how are we alike? how are we different? how does personal interpretation come into play?) and personal reflection. But I collect the answers, with no identification, and I enjoy seeing a collective view-point of my class.

Here are the Personal Philosophies of Tech Lab Sp2017:

  • work hard and you will succeed
  • work hard and be successful
  • do what makes you happy
  • everything occurs for a reason
  • never give up
  • we are all privileged and hindered in some way, shape or form
  • be kind first, you can always go back later and be right
  • live your own life and be yourself
  • live with love and be aware of others, be true to my faith
  • live life to the fullest, but with respect
  • be there when people need you
  • see others how Christ would see them
  • just keep pushing, there’s a rainbow somewhere
  • treat others with respect at all times
  • treat others now you want to be treated
  • golden rule
  • screw it
  • see justice, love mercy, walk humbly with God. it’s not about me
  • journey before destination
  • make things easier for yourself and others
  • be kind to everyone
  • know what you expect and what is expected of you
  • alway be happy, life is short















What is YOUR personal philosophy?

6 Things: week of 10/24

In no particular order, here are six things that have my attention this week:

  1. ZenPencils: in TechLab we’re looking at how we can use comic strips as a form of assessment. There are TONS of engaging ways to incorporate comics (books & strips). In my search for supporting materials, I came across ZenPencils and spent a good chunk of time reading through the incredible comics and accompanying blog posts. So, this cartoon artist, Gavin Aung Than, from Melbourne, Australia, takes famous quotes and turns them into comics, then helps the rest of us learn more about what the quote means by writing about it. I can’t pick one favorite, but these are definitely worth checking out:
  2. IFTT: If This Than That:  a “recipe” site that allows you to create recipes to trigger digital action. For example, I have some simple recipes – when my local weather station has rain in the forecast, I get an email (or I could set it to send me a text). When anyone posts a photo to Coe Learning Commons Instagram account, it automatically hits our Facebook page, too. I heard about this last year at ITEC. I saw a teacher that had a recipe set up for when he liked a YouTube video. The link and description would feed into a Google spreadsheet, so he could go back and find videos to use for has classes at a later time. I think this is brilliant…I’m not quite there yet, but have aspirations!
  3. Blog Challenge: Our TechLab did this old blog challenge last week. I love this one. It makes us think about what’s important (one book!) and what we want to change. I learn so much about my students.
  4. Teaching Old Dogs New Tricks. We have one-year-old Shepard-Lab litter mates named Charley & Lola at my house. They have some issues. This week we had a dog

    Charley and Lola at the off leash park.

    trainer come to the house and I learned that my natural instants are validating behaviors we’re trying to train out of the dogs. It is HARD to change your ways and habits! (like who walks out the door of your house first, for example.) It’s always been way easier and natural for me to put on the dog’s leashes, open the door, let them walk through, then follow them out. Now I’ve learned this is the wrong way to go out (I am leaning on them to be the alpha dogs, making sure everything is OK for me when I do this). This makes me think about how hard it is to imagine education as something different than our “ways” or old habits. For every question we can answer “because that’s the way we’ve always done it” we need to think deeply about WHY.

  5. MySimpleShow: new tool! Create short Common Craft inspired videos in a simple, step-by-step method. My Simple Show prompts you through each step, offers simple graphics (or allows you to upload your own images) and exports to online publishing (YouTube, Vimeo) or an MP4 file. Here’s a sample I created to promo an event at the Learning Commons: LNAP
  6. The Mid-Semester Slump: next week, Coe will celebrate the slog. The Learning Commons, the Writing Center, Library, Speaking Center and the Writing Across the Curriculum committee will host the Long Night Against Procrastination. This is our third event (we started last fall). Students gather in the library, commit to a goal (write 600 words, study for Calculus, complete my paper), encourage each other, enjoy snacks and beverages and brain breaks every hour. Faculty host study tables or drop in hours. It’s celebratory and fun and a LOT of work gets done. I will join in and I will work and take breaks, but my days of being productive after midnight are long gone.

Weekly 6 (3rd week of October)

New feature: Stro’s Weekly 6 (six things I’m thinking about or trying out this week)

  1. Pecha Kuch I didn’t get to attend the fall ITEC conference this year, but I’ve been following the Twitter feed and #pechakucha was a hashtagged on many tweets. Out of curiosity, I did a little digging and discovered Pecha Kucha is a presentation format featuring 20 slides, timed at 20 seconds each. The idea is to keep things moving! We’re going to try this out in Tech Lab this year. Perhaps end of the semester presentations on targeted topics? Still pondering.
  2. ToonyTool  I found this on Richard Byrne’s FreeTech4Teachers blog. It’s a simple, single frame comic creator. No login or account required. You can create and print, save as a graphic, email it to someone (or yourself) or share it online. I’d like to use this as an end-of-class “check point.”  I’d have students create a simple cartoon illustrating one key concept from class.
  3. RIPL is a new app I downloaded to create interesting graphics for Istagram. RIPL combines text with images using pre-set templates (most using animations to draw attention).
  4. Friends Memes: we didn’t have Tech Lab last week. This week, one of my students said she wanted to publish her blog, timed to the minute rossonbreakbefore it was due, with the tag “sorry this is last minute: we were on a break!” This is the Ross Geller meme from Friends. Friends aired from 1994-2004 (one of the most watched sitcoms of the early 2000s) so it was much more my generation than my students! It’s had a resurgence in popularity thanks to Netflix.
  5. Weather: this week in Cedar Rapids temps hit the 80s. According to KCRG News, “at the Eastern Iowa Airport, the high has hit at least 80 degrees on October 17 only five times since 1953. The last time it happened was in 1971! The record high for Cedar Rapids is 86 degrees, which happened in 1950. (Before 1953, records for Cedar Rapids occurred in a different location.)”
  6. GooseChase: I had to be off campus last week during Tech Lab; so we did an online team-based scavenger hunt using GooseChase. I set up 14 challenges, ranging from snapping a photo of their assigned school noting technology used in cooperating classrooms, to writing a 3 sentence synopsis or example of growth mindset to sharing their “tweet of the week.”  Things I learned: you can’t post a saved photo. Within the app, you can take a photo for immediate posting, but cannot access your photo library. The free version is limited to 5 individuals or teams (unlimited people can join teams). I set up teams, but it’s not evident yet if the system captures the individual user names as they contribute to the team. I think there is enough here to explore more. Anyone else using this?

Unwritten Laws

I recently asked my TechLab students to ponder unwritten laws. This writing prompt came from a book I have called  Caffeine for the Creative Brain by Stefan Mumaw. I refer back to the book on various occasions when I need to jump start my creativity or spark an idea. It’s really geared toward the marketing profession, but I’ve found a lot of use for it in education, too.

Pondering the unwritten rules in my circle, I’m reminded of daycare days at Children’s Corner. Both kids were sticklers for the unwritten laws of the playground:

  • if you didn’t make it, don’t break it (particularly useful in the sandbox, where the temptation to smash someone’s sand sculpture is often times unbearable)
  • hands are not for hurting
  • bathroom words are for the bathroom

I’ve developed my own set of unwritten laws pertaining to my role as a parent. For instance, when my kids were little and acting unkindly with their playmates, I would take them into a private area to reprimand or redirect. As they get older, I make it a point not to point out flaws or dole out reprimands in front of their friends (I save that torture for when we’re alone); unless there is imminent danger involved. Then all bets for saving their little psyches are off. I try (but am not always successful) to acknowledge goodness before flaws. As a daily dinner table ritual we share something good that happened to someone else, and something we did that was helpful or good for someone else…unwritten law: always look for the good (sometimes we have to actively seek it out).

My unwritten professional rules include never using anyone as a derogatory example in my teaching (to both students & faculty) and understanding that while everyone might be on the same road, we’re not all driving the same speed (and often times we’re in different vehicles). As an Academic Technologist I recognize that the majority of technical problems presented to me aren’t really technical in nature at all. Unwritten rule: make people feel good about the tools they have/use (and see value in them) and the people will attempt to use them more.

Other unwritten laws I’ve encountered:

  • wherever one sits during the first week of class, is probably where that person will sit for the remainder of the semester
  • certain tables or areas of the caf are connected to certain social groups.
  • conversations in the locker room after noon workouts are limited to the work out, how the work out will affect our bodies the next day or a subject closely related
  • when meeting an acquaintance in the grocery store, we never comment on the contents of each other’s carts
  • when entering any public restroom, if the option exists to put an empty stall between yourself and an occupied stall, do it.
  • when taking an escalator, stand on the right and let people walk on the left (please, people…do this!)
  • in a communal kitchen, wash your dishes.